Maputo Declaration: 20 years after, Nigeria yet to implement commitments to food security

It was on the evening of March 12, 2024. Mrs Grace Adeniyi, a widow, had just returned from school, famished, and exhausted.

She taught in a local primary school in Lagos, South-West Nigeria, but her monthly take-home was usually a paltry sum of N15,000 (£8.82).

Regardless, the mother of two demonstrated a deep passion for her teaching role such that poor remuneration was never a concern until Desmond Adeniyi, her late husband, died of cancer of the bone in 2019. It broke her.

The sad incident crumbled her world, sending the widow and her seven-year-old girl and teenage boy into abject poverty. The situation worsened with the rise in the cost of agricultural commodities exacerbated by the food shortages in the country. Meanwhile, procuring staple food items had always been her late husband’s sole responsibility. Thus, she never knew the difference until his demise.

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Ridiculous rise in food prices

“Can I have a crate of eggs?” she asked the store owner, four blocks from her house. A crate contains 20 pieces of eggs.

“It is now N4,000.”

“What?” she exclaimed, feeling hopeless. Etched on her face was the look of someone trying to comprehend the rationale for the outrageous rise in the cost of food.

“This is ridiculous,” said Grace. The price of the food commodity has jerked by 100 per cent within a year.

“Just last year, this crate of eggs was selling for N3,000,” she said, rhetorically, and walked away, leaving the food item behind. Independent findings, however, showed that the same pack of 30 eggs was sold at N600 in 2015 but has risen to N4,000 in the space of nine years.

Incidentally, the situation is not peculiar to Grace, nor a particular farm produce but it is nationwide, affecting both the rich and the poor.

A simple market survey in the course of this work revealed that as of May 2015, a Kilogram (KG) of chicken sold for N1,000, but the same KG is currently pegged at N3,500 at the local markets.

A 50kg cassava flour known as ‘garri’ was selling for N6,000 during the same period, May 2015, but the price, as of March 2024, had risen to N35,000. While 50kg of rice and beans were N10,000 and N21,000 in 2015, respectively, both farm commodities, the same kilograms, are currently sold at N78,000 and N65,000 each.

Figure 1 An Infographic shows rise in cost of staple foods. Data gathered via market survey in March, 2024. Credit: Olugbenga Adanikin. Date: March 28, 2024

Former Chairman of the Agricultural Correspondents Association of Nigeria (ACAN), Mr John Oba, described the developments as disturbing. He said it showed the government’s low commitment to genuinely developing the food sector.

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“It is a sad reality, I must tell you. The government has failed us as a people when we most needed them,” said Oba.

Over the years, successive governments have paid lip service to developing the agricultural sector.

The poor attention to developing the sector has hurt the economy and the cost of food. In the past years, for instance, the nation resolved to import food from Thailand, India, and Indonesia.

The Federal Government (FG), in 2015, initiated levies to ban the imports, as a way of promoting local production. In April 2023, the tariffs on rice, wheat and 190 other items were further raised. Yet, the upward tariff review was done without corresponding budgetary allocation to the sector.

Findings revealed that warehouses were strategically built a few metres from the land borders in neighbouring francophone countries such as Niger Republic in a bid to smuggle agricultural commodities into Nigeria.

Incidentally, the staple foods are such that the nation has immense potential to grow. For instance, 2021 data from Statista described Nigeria as the world’s largest producer of cassava, also the largest grower of yam globally, followed by Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. However, it is worse that a war-ridden country like Ukraine, on March 4, 2024, had to donate 25,000 tonnes of wheat to Nigeria.

Multiple stakeholders kicked against the situation, blaming the Nigerian government for failing to develop the sector truly. Meanwhile, official data show that over 70 percent of Nigerians are involved in agriculture at a subsistence level. Mechanised farming also has the lowest ebb. While it is true that Nigeria can grow its food, it could also empower the unemployed, mainly if it adopts mechanised farming and improved farming methodologies.

Figure 2 Bags of rice smuggled into Nigeria. Photo Credit: Ships and Ports.

On 15 February, President Bola Tinubu admitted food insecurity during an emergency meeting with state governors from the 36 states in the country but ruled out imports. He said the nation would continue with home-grown food production instead of resorting to imports.

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“I will not establish a price control board, nor will I approve the importation of food,” he said. “Instead, we will support our farmers with schemes encouraging them to cultivate food for the nation.”

How it started

In July 2003, the Nigerian government signed an agreement as part of efforts to increase food production, fight extreme poverty and create sustainable jobs. The commitment, known as the African Union Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, was for AU member nations, of which Nigeria is a signatory, to allocate at least 10 percent of their annual budgets to agriculture and rural development.

The pact is recognized as the AU Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). But, more than a decade later, Nigeria has not implemented the agreement, causing untold hardship on the citizens.

Figure 3Farmers harvesting on a farmland. Photo Credit: Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria.

While the policy came into effect during the administration of the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, successive governments have repeatedly failed in the commitment. Several initiatives on agriculture were put in place to transform the agricultural sector, but indications showed there were more policies without actions. Besides, where considerable efforts were made, the nation experienced policy summersaults as successive administrations failed to sustain initial efforts.

For instance, in 2010, former President Goodluck Jonathan initiated the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). The initiative was led by the current President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who, until his new appointment, was the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria.

The thrust of his policy was to suspend food importation and grow crops with value-addition while considering the agricultural potential of respective states nationwide. That is, Adesina was not only interested in growing foods but moved to ensure states that could produce particular farm commodities were provided the needed support. These were implemented through the Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZ). Local farmers were also offered farm inputs such as fertilisers, and seeds at subsidised rates through the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme.

Though the former Minister could not achieve the Maputo declaration, the whole effort stopped when he left in 2015. Audu Ogbeh succeeded him, followed by other public officials, until the current Minister, Mohammad Mahmood, was sworn in in 2023.     

10 years budget shows non-compliance with AU agreement

Before oil discovery in Nigeria in 1956, agriculture was the mainstay of its economy. It gradually went sour when the government continually gave it lesser attention. It eventually worsened due to poor budgetary allocations to food production amid the rising population.

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During this finding, effort was made to dissect the budget from 2014 to 2024 to benchmark the nation’s commitment in 10 years. The Budget Office of the Federation under the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning is the custodian of Nigeria’s annual budgets. However, compared with the national budget, an analysis of a 10-year budget cycle of the agriculture ministry – 2014 to 2024 – showed non-compliance to the regional commitment.

Here is the breakdown: In 2014, the Nigerian government had a total budget of N4.69 trillion but allocated N66.64 billion for the agricultural sector. Contrary to the 10 percent annual budgetary allocation commitment, this amount represented 1.41 percent of the total budget.

The allocation to the sector in the following year, 2015, dropped. About N40.65 billion was earmarked from a total budget of N4.49 trillion. This represented 0.90 percent of the year’s total budget.

In 2016, the Federal Government had N6.06 trillion as its total budget but allocated N75.80 billion to the agricultural sector for food production and rural development. But this sum also did not reflect the 10 percent Maputo declaration; instead, it was 1.20 percent.

In 2017, Nigeria’s agricultural sector got N81.96 billion from the nation’s N7.44 trillion appropriation for the year. Still, like in previous years, the sector secured only 1.10 percent.

Figure 4 Bar Chart Shows Nigeria’s Budgetary Allocations to the Agricultural Sector Between 2014 and 2024, with the Deficits. Source Budget Office of the Federation. Designed by Olugbenga Adanikin. March 28, 2024.

By 2018, there was a bit of allocation increase to the sector, amounting to N203 billion from the N9.12 trillion total budget. This also accounted for 2.22 percent of the total annual appropriation.

While there ought to be a rise in the allocation to the sector, 2019 witnessed a partial drop. The sector was allocated N164 billion, representing 1.84 percent of the national budget pegged at N8.92 trillion.

During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the country agreed on a total budget of N10.81 trillion but only earmarked N160.45 billion for the agricultural sector, representing 1.48 percent of the total budget.

A year after the pandemic in 2021, the sector secured 2.06 percent of the total budget for the year, pegged at N13.58 trillion. The percentage implies the food sector pulled N280.31 billion – much less than the 10 percent agreed sum for food production and value-addition.

In 2022, the agricultural sector was initially allocated N2.49 percent of the year’s budget. That is, it got N426.98 billion from N17.12 trillion total approved budget for the year. But the paucity of funds led the government to review its agriculture budget for the year. Thus, the sector eventually got 1.2 per cent of the total budget – N215.87 billion of N17.12 trillion.

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By 2023, the budget for the agricultural sector rose from N215.87 billion in the previous year to N426.98 billion. The fiscal policy for the year was N21.83 trillion. The farm sector represented only 1.95 percent of the total budget.

In 2024, about N28.77 trillion was appropriated as the total approved budget for the nation, while the agriculture ministry secured only N996.90 billion. This amount represented 3.46 percent of the total budget, implying that amidst extreme poverty in the country, the administrators are yet to fulfil their commitment to ending food insecurity.   

Food shortage, leading cause of malnutrition in Northern Nigeria

Beyond extreme poverty, findings have shown that food shortages have gradually caused a rise in children’s malnourishment. According to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 2 million Nigerian children account for the world‘s second-largest suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). It is made worse as the situation is contributing to child morbidity and mortality in the country.   

Poor political will, policy inconsistency reasons for food insecurity, rise in food price

The Founder, Community Action for Food Security, Mr Azeez Salawu, identified bureaucratic bottlenecks among ministries and inconsistencies in policy implementation as the main factors for the non-implementation of the Maputo agreement. He faulted the poor political will of the government, stressing that the policymakers were docile in their responsibilities towards ensuring food sufficiency.

Founder, Community Action for Food Security, Azeez Salawu

“I think the failure for me is due to distinct factors. The major one is the challenge of implementing some of our policies. We have beautiful policies, but inconsistencies in policy implementation are a great challenge.”

He noted that non-implementation of the policy caused poor investment in the agriculture sector. He said this led to poor infrastructure developments, access to inputs, and vulnerability to climate change.

According to him, domestic food production had not matched up with population growth, thus resulting in food imports and higher prices.

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“The vulnerable populations are the most affected. There is no current policy, but the previous ones were robust enough…the challenge remains poor implementation.”

However, Salawu advised stakeholders to implement the right-to-food bill passed into law by the past government in alignment with the prevailing challenge in Nigeria. He added that solving the food insecurity problem would require a comprehensive approach.

“Aside fulfilling the commitment to the Maputo declaration, we need to increase investments in agricultural research and extension services intentionally. Also, we need to improve access to finance and inputs, infrastructure facilities such as irrigation, storage facilities and post-harvest engagements.”

The Head of Department, Business Administration at Oduduwa University, Nigeria, Mr Omolade Adeyemi attributed the failure of food security to the ruling elite’s lack of political will. He said though the 10 percent commitment was similar to other pacts, such as the 20 percent proposed allocation to the education sector, the government needed to demonstrate seriousness in addressing the people’s basic needs.

While appealing to the FG to revisit the policy and commence immediate implementation, Adeyemi disclosed that apart from year 2008, when FG committed 12 percent of the budgetary allocation to agriculture, other years had been less than 10 percent.

“The failure of the FGN to commit to the 10 percent Maputo Declaration had no doubt greatly contributed to food shortage in the country.

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“Some agro-allied industries have even shut down due to no supply of farm produce for further processing, and this has led to laying off of staff and loss of forex because the whole of West Africa is our market.”

Olugbenga Adanikin
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